Myth of the Millennial or Trend of the Modern Employee?

The negative stereotypes about millennials in the workforce are everywhere, they are: lazy, self-entitled, narcissistic, tech-obsessed, job hoppers, and the pejorative list goes on. But these views about millennials aren’t totally accurate. Rather, it’s their untraditional workplace habits that draw the attention of bad press and ludicrously so. Since, with just a closer look it’s not hard to see that their ways of ‘doing’ are not actually limited to one generation. Let’s look at how these persistent behavioural trends, nonetheless, can actually benefit organizations and can actually create a company culture with better work-life integration for all employees – whatever their generation.

We have seen copious cases where the innovative, creative mindset of many millennials are helping transform business culture. Such ideas can, for example, help businesses move from traditional systems like a phone on the desk to software or mobile social media networks that can be updated real-time on-the-go, and ‘on-demand’ as a means of engaging and increasing communication between employees. It goes without saying that, in working to develop innovation companies can learn a lot about the generational divides and what can be learned from the often misunderstood millennials. But the key here is to remember that business can unite a workforce by learning from not just what this generation do, but rather by taking more time to harness the innovative ‘modern’ employee mindset of every single employee of every generation. Let’s take a closer look at 3 key trends:

Trend 1: Debunking the myth that says Millennials don’t want to work

A Bentley University study found that 70% of non-millennial respondents believed that millennials aren’t as willing to “pay their dues”.

Where does this myth come from? Employees focused on traditional workplace interactions, such as spending 9-5 in the office chained at one’s assigned desk. During my work experience days, I vividly remember learning from more senior colleagues that ‘if you want to leave the workplace early, make sure you leave your jacket on your chair so it at least looks like you’re still there.’ Sounds absurd? The reality is far more infuriating. The misconception that millennials don’t want to work comes from the traditional mindset that assumes if you can’t see your co-worker in the cubicle next to you, he must be skipping out on work. But that old-age habit, is no longer a generational or relevant focus. Many modern employees, let alone millennials, are much more flexible in their approach to the workplace (thanks to technology and the possibilities of remote working) and prefer to work from anywhere that is convenient for them, whether that’s at home, a coffee shop, or in a shared co-working spaces like Wework. Fast growth companies in particular, such as seem to recognise the benefits in productivity and ‘smart working’ over fixed hours and locations. In many cases the advantage of this flexible culture means women and men are supported with flexi childcare and this goes a long way to foster diversity in the workforce at the higher echelons of a corporate career. It’s not so much a ‘slacking culture’ but one adapted to the needs of a new employee mindset where employees are working and travelling to and from distant locations during different times. This is a global trend, born out of the rising need for companies to flex their schedules in order to allow employees to achieve greater work-life balance. So let’s recognise this for what it is – the opportunity to accommodate the life of the modern employee which is now more global, dynamic than ever before.

Trend 2: Millennials are serial “job hoppers” and don’t have company loyalty.

While it’s true that millennials do change jobs more frequently than other generations, this is far more of a reflection on the need for companies to improve how they engage and retain their people rather than a simple generational factor. Millennials are like any other generation in their desires, needs and aspirations. Those who feel engaged by their company are 26% less likely to consider taking a new job compared to their unengaged generational counterparts. But, employees leave their bosses not their companies and it is poor management, lack of a lived company vision, role modelling of leadership teams and an employee’s engagement work driving the trend into self-employment (Dr Tomaz Chamorro Pemuzic). According to a Bentley University survey,  finding an ethical, socially responsible company, with a good reputation, matters to over 85% of millennials. So, the reality is, millennials are more likely to develop company loyalty if they feel their job is meaningful. The question you have to ask yourself is, how can we provide that experience for all our employees?

This is consistent with my own experience. A company needs to be explicit in their values. Employees implicitly understand the company values by looking at the leaders. It is important to realize that any company needs to be explicit about what the values are and keep referring back to them in order to motivate millennial employees in particular. Staff face challenges when they aren’t educated upfront about the values of a company and don’t understand how what they are doing connects back to the greater good. You can follow millennials lead on bringing purpose into their work and creating more work-life integration by making values and mission clear to employees. Sharing this information can allow millennials to feel like their job is more meaningful and it could lead to greater loyalty and retention.

Trend 3: Ownership attitude – “Your career is your own responsibility”

Another way companies can increase millennial employees loyalty is by trusting them, and giving them ownership rather than leading by micro-managing or by providing a paternalistic benefits system. For instance, a growing number of companies with strong millennial work bases are implementing ‘millennial advisory boards’ and entrusting employees lower down the career echelon with costings. Thereby putting the accountability, trust and respect into the employee’s hands to use their judgment on what’s best for the overall company when booking company travel, or expensing lunch, all of which should be carefully tracked and monitored by performance reviews – of course.

Trend 4: Millennials are mobile orientated. That doesn’t mean they can’t communicate.

On the contrary, millennials love group messaging or video and this could be more to do with this generation’s care for sense of community and belonging, which with the virtual world becomes more prominent than ever before and leads to joy and comfort when constantly communicating throughout the day.

It is important to acknowledge that the way modern employees communicate alters the culture of an organisation. The constant contact between different groups allows all generations to blur the lines between personal and professional relationships inside and outside of work.

Given the trends reflect the culture changes of all modern employee mindsets, why wouldn’t you take the millennial way of working into account? According to a Gallup survey, companies with a highly engaged workforce outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. The more companies can let go of myths or stereotypes about millennials and seek to understand what motivates and engages their own employees, the more its culture will organically drive performance. What is there to lose?

About the author

Elle Edwards represents the ‘Voice of the Professional Millennial’ and, as an advocate of her generation, is on a mission to inspire and inform business leaders and other millennials of the opportunities and possibilities that can be created by harnessing – instead of undermining – a millennial mindset.

Millennials often get labelled as self-centred, lazy and ‘useless’ when it comes to the workplace. Elle heartily disagrees with this stereotype. Instead, she actively works to promote and celebrate the unique talents and abilities of those with a millennial mindset – and in the hope to overcome this incriminating view of her generation.

Drawing on her growing expertise and passion for professional development, she also advises and informs CEO’s and business leaders on building a progressive workplace culture. This advisory work might include: how to use millennials to your advantage; how to engage an employee workforce; leverage data and adopt a 21st Century cultural mindset that makes the workplace a thriving hub full of successful employees – at every level.

Follow Elle, on twitter @ElleEdwards_com or as she shares her understanding of the skills and behaviours transforming the culture of the workplace for the benefit of millennials, executives and the performance of organisations alike. Work with her, as a business leader or millennial, on creating a positive, progressive workplace culture that drives performance, but also ultimately works for all – whatever your generation.

Featured image: State Farm – State Farm and Harris Poll conducted a State of Neighbors survey. Via Flickr, CC Licence 2017.

2 Responses

  1. Soon enough those myths will be broken! The millenials are looking for best opportunity as we were at the same age. It is just the technology that changes things! Like working remote! And so on!

  2. I have been conducting generational research since 1993 – back when Gen X was the new young generation in the workforce! Since then, my work has focused on Millennials, and more specifically, the ‘Millennial mindset.’ The research done by myself and my firm has found that, overall, every member of the workforce is becoming more and more ‘Millennial’ in their work style and preferences. This is the natural result of ongoing changes in the nature of work, culminating in the ‘generational shift’ we currently see today.

    Ms. Edwards is right on target in her evaluation of ‘Millennial’ behavior in the workplace as being indicative of a larger trend in modern employment. Unlike many others commenting on the trends seen in young employees, Elle uses her personal and professional insights to evaluate the larger picture, and how employers can leverage these modern employment trends to their business advantage. The myths about Millennials don’t just hurt Millennials – they affect everyone in the workplace regardless of age.

    Elle clearly understands that the nature of work itself is changing, not just the people working!

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